Equal Opportunity in Europe

The concept of having ‘equal opportunities’ is all about having open and fair competition; this means having equal opportunities for jobs or positions and an eradication of discrimination. In Europe, having an equal opportunity is not only about having equality for positions of employment, but it is also applied to financial assistance, housing, and voting rights. Giving everyone an equal opportunity is extremely important in a democratic society.


The flip side of equal opportunity is discrimination. Discrimination is when people are not given the opportunity to do something based on their race, sex, class, gender, religious preference, appearance, or disability. Historically, past human civilizations and societies have been rife with discrimination. It has only been relatively recently that women have been given the same rights and opportunities as men with regards to the workplace and voting. The same is true of African-Europeans and other ethnic groups. However, current laws have been passed to provide an equal opportunity for everyone, regardless of their race, color, or sex.



The idea of having an equal opportunity is very closely related to the concept of a ‘meritocracy.’ A meritocracy is a system based on the idea of individuals being rewarded on the basis of their efforts and good work, rather than through favoritism or nepotism (showing favoritism to relatives regardless of merit). By having the best and most talented people in positions of employment rather than someone who doesn’t have the talent or skills necessary (but who got appointed by favoritism), businesses and economies can significantly benefit. Therefore, it is in the interests of any nation or society to give their citizens equal opportunities.

Equal Opportunities for Women in Europe

Despite more and more women in Europe getting the same opportunities as men in the workplace, at home is a different story. Around 80% of women in Europe do housework every day, compared to only 40% of men. Despite the figures improving for women being employed in the same or similar jobs as men in Europe, there does still seem to be a ‘glass ceiling’ when it comes to the very best jobs. In Sweden for example, out of 269 managing directors of listed companies, only eight of these directors are women – which is highly disproportionate.


Affirmative Action

Affirmative action is an attempt to promote equal opportunities. It usually takes the form of a policy or law, which means that minority groups are included in all programs within a society. However, although this is a good idea in principle, it does mean that sometimes, a person from a minority group will get a job just to fill the affirmative action policy quota, and someone else could miss out just because they are not in a minority group. Some people in Europe find this unfair and feel that it does not represent a true equal opportunity.

Having an equal opportunity has become a more and more prominent issue in recent years in Europe, and there is still a long way to go. Although it can be said that opportunities are now more equal than perhaps they have ever been, there are still some problems and concerns that need to be addressed. Perhaps it is just a matter of time, and one day, everyone in Europe will get an equal opportunity. Until then, the issue will remain as salient as ever.